Chapter

A Protreptic to Agronomy

Philip Thibodeau

in Playing the Farmer

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268326
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950252 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520268326.003.0005
A Protreptic to Agronomy

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This chapter demonstrates how a number of aesthetic, rhetorical, and philosophical strands in the poem's representation of agriculture contribute to an end that is described as protreptic. Three features of the poem are considered. The first is its selectivity, the Georgics' extreme compression and omission of topics other writers treat as indispensable. It is argued that what it loses in usefulness it gains in the curiosity it elicits regarding technical subjects. Next, the chapter returns to a theme from Chapter 3 and shows how in his aitia, or causes, Vergil creates a complex series of ties between agriculture and other more prestigious fields of knowledge, which elevate agronomy and make it seem like a true liberal art. The last section examines the poet's construction of thaumata, or marvels, in passages where he either explicitly or implicitly impels the reader to an experience of wonder at the subject. Vergil deploys wonders for various ends, but most often it is to make an intellectual response to his material seem necessary.

Keywords: Vergil; Georgics; agriculture; selectivity; aitia; thaumata

Chapter.  13387 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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